The Meaning Behind My Blog Name: Writing Mindset
It Started with Writing, It Ended with Mindset
I recently realized with the two-year anniversary of my blog this past month, I have never really explained why I chose the name Writing Mindset for this small place in the world of the internet I call my own. Each piece of writing that we put out into the universe has two meanings: the meaning for the author and their intention and the meaning for the reader and their perception. This duality is a reason why I loved English class in high school and eventually became an English teacher. There is a beauty in trying to find a common understanding between people and their ideas. The words “writing” and “mindset” can immediately strike meaning to any person who reads them; however, both of these words hold a few different meanings for me. Together, they are the reason why I keep coming back week after week to continue my work on the blog.
I think back to that sketchbook in January 2017 when I was coming up with different ideas for the blog and LLC, and this name is what stood out to me as important, meaningful, and a reminder about the pursuit of dreams. So, let me tell you what it means to me. I didn’t just grab the name from the universe or pull a catchphrase. While I admit it does have a catchy ring (don’t think I don’t have an eye on the fact that somebody out there owns “write mindset”), but this blog represents 9 years of teaching and knowledge that I have gained from trial and error. I chose a blog name that would remind me about who I was and where I was going as a teacher. I wanted a daily reminder to live within a growth mindset, share with other teachers, and remain grounded in my own writing.
Growing with Growth Mindset
In 2017, I was heavy into growth mindset work in my classroom. I still am. I had recently finished Carol Dweck’s Mindset: The New Psychology of Success and had moved on to Mindsets in the Classroom: Building a Growth Mindset Learning Community by Mary Cay Ricci. I was so intrigued by the idea of the two mindsets: fixed and growth. I also couldn’t help but see how often I was projecting a fixed mindset in regards to written and verbal feedback in my classroom, and also in my daily interactions with students in terms of praise. It is not only necessary to be a positive source of energy for students each day, but it is also necessary that we show them what is like to be good people. I held on to Rita Pearson’s TED Talk “Every Kid Needs a Champion” because her message that we must become great actors and actresses in our classrooms resonated with me. Teachers need to “put on the show” of growth mindset, and we need to believe it. Our students are counting on it.
Carol Dweck had me sold. It seemed cliche to me to believe that we all have limitless potential-even as a teacher. This almost sounded too good to be true. However, how we think about our everyday interactions, our emotions, our own thoughts, our perceptions, and reactions to each other...this seemed within the wheelhouse of control to me. Mindset itself is how we regulate our own minds. I saw in my students that they often needed to get out of their own way in terms of mindset. The conditioning to feel the response of failure is one of the causes of behavior and the negative atmosphere of a classroom. We are conditioned to think can’t when we should be conditioned to think can and will. Even as teachers, we are conditioned to think we can’t fit it all in, or we can’t complete something, or there is simply no time. Growth mindset is about finding solutions, and I love a good problem. I knew that the word “mindset” had to be somewhere in my blog’s name.
A Bigger Connection to Teaching
The teaching of writing was the first thing that I felt good at in the classroom. This may seem small, but as a teacher, we are given so many hats that sometimes they all come falling off. Being able to say to myself “I got this” was so important to me. Colleagues came to me and started to ask how I did a strategy or what I was doing in terms of a lesson. I even had Kylene Beers and Bob Probst come into my classroom and both of them said: “you are doing it right.” I got validation that I was okay at this thing called teaching. Think back to the first time that you had already made a lesson and didn’t have to make it from scratch. Think back to any time where it clicked to students. I often have interns tell me these are the moments that caused them to want to go into teaching. The lightbulb moment. I love these moments because I feel like I am making progress. Now, I am guilty of always trying new things and not necessarily staying to my niche, but this bigger connection to the teaching of writing contributed to a growth mindset about my own abilities.
And then I realized that TONS of people actually hate teaching writing. This was something that sparked both confusion and joy because I felt like I could help people. I remember making essay packets and being flattered when I would see copies that someone “took” and would run them in the teachers' lounge. It is a powerful thing to have others use what is working in your classroom. It is a compliment, a gift. It was also here in this hatred of teaching that I started to come to terms with the idea of burnout. When teachers start disliking something, it seems like the pile grows larger and larger. It is suffocating sometimes to think about how much we don’t like. Even if we are of the positive mindset, we can be pulled into the undertow of hating our jobs. Writing Mindset made a shift in 2018 to focus more on the self-care aspect of teaching because simply, we need each other. Self-care remains a huge reason why I do this blog because it is a form of mindset and survival. There is a saying that goes around on Pinterest from LiveLifeHappy blog saying, “Life is only as good as your mindset.” I find this inspiring, but I would argue that even more so your teaching is only as good as your mindset each and every day.
Personal Writing Connects to Reading
I feverishly wrote in journals as a kid. I didn’t write stories. I didn’t feel like I had any large imagination over any other kid. There were no dragons, horses, or heroes. As a child, the writing was a release. I wrote poems that rhymed and those that did not. I wrote about my day. It wasn’t necessarily a diary. It was a conversation with myself about life (Okay, call it a diary). Writing continues to be a release even as an adult, so therefore the “writing” part of the blog involves release and conversation. Little did I know that the writing part would become the key to a career in teaching later on in my timeline.
Writing opened doors to reading for me in high school. In my tenth grade English classroom I was taught how to annotate in the margin. It made so much sense to me to track what in the world Emerson was trying to say to me in the first place that I connected my writing to understanding in reading. This is why I first teach annotation in the fall of each year. I see that writing is a way to track thinking and therefore it has to be a way to connect how I think about reading and how my students think about reading. I thought I would pigeonhole myself with a name like Writing Mindset that I could never talk about reading on the blog. This seemed like it might be disastrous because I indeed like reading as much as writing, but then I realized that writing unlocks the doors to reading, and I could also blog about whatever I wanted to anyway. The word “writing” stuck and it seemed like it represented so much more than just pen and paper…it was me.
Teacher Blog Brainwork
I titled this post “It Started with Writing, It Ended with Mindset” because the act of teaching writing caused me to fall in love with teaching. However, the mindset is what keeps me coming back to teaching everyday and it keeps me engaged because I notice how badly my students need mindset work and how necessary it is to attend to the mindset of teachers. We are going away. What I mean by this is that we are stressed and leaving for other jobs. The beauty of teaching is that we are constantly wearing twenty different hats and therefore we become multifaceted employees in many different fields. We can always leave. However, while we are here, the ability to connect with each other, build off of each other, and grow within the profession is what will drive many of us to continue to unlock our classroom doors each day. We are important, and we matter.
I would urge anyone in teaching to start a blog to share what they know. Writing Mindset remains an outlet and an necessity in my teaching. Something to think about:
What do I do in my classroom that I can share with others?
What strategies do I feel the most confident in myself and in my classroom?
When do I “strut my stuff” in front of colleagues?
Even if you are sharing on social media, we, as teachers, must continue to share our classrooms and thinking behind our individual mindset in order to stay teaching.